Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Review: A Cruel Deception by Charles Todd

A Cruel Deception (Bess Crawford, Book #11)
by Charles Todd
Release Date: October 22nd 2019
2019 William Morrow/Harper Collins Publishers
Kindle Edition: 320 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062859860
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

The Armistice of November 1918 ended the fighting, but the Great War will not be over until a Peace Treaty is drawn up and signed by all parties. Representatives from the Allies are gathering in Paris, and already ominous signs of disagreement have appeared.

Sister Bess Crawford, who has been working with the severely wounded in England in the war’s wake, is asked to carry out a personal mission in Paris for a Matron at the London headquarters of The Queen Alexandra’s.

Bess is facing decisions about her own future, even as she searches for the man she is charged with helping.  When she does locate Lt. Lawrence Minton, she finds a bitter and disturbed officer who has walked away from his duties at the Peace Conference and is well on his way toward an addiction to opiates. When she confronts him with the dangers of using laudanum, he tells her that he doesn’t care if he lives or dies, as long as he can find oblivion. 

What is driving this man to a despair so profound it can only end with death? The war? Something that happened in Paris? To prevent a tragedy, she must get at the truth as quickly as possible—which means putting herself between Lieutenant Minton and whatever is destroying him. Or is it whoever?

My Thoughts
A Cruel Deception is the eleventh entry in the Bess Crawford series, and as we approach the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, I am left wondering what will happen to Bess and to the life she has known for the past four Years.  While this book doesn't quite answer those questions, there is definitely some foreshadowing happening that gives little hints that we will be in store for big things with Bess, and dare I hope, Simon? 

Bess has spent the last four years working as a nursing sister for The Queen Alexandra's and has learned to survive in some pretty stressful situations.  That this would change a person is unquestionable, but I thought the author did a fantastic job showing the difficulties people had after the war trying to return to pre-war mentalities once the war ended.  Unfortunately, you can't change the past and you can't change progress.  So while the world changed, so did women and their independence and I liked how the author highlighted the struggle that existed during this time period for women who have learned to be independent and the societal expectations that were being put back on them.  This left a lot of room for Bess and introspection throughout the novel as to whether she wanted to continue being a nursing sister or whether there could be much more for her out there.  I really enjoyed her thoughts about this as there really hadn't been a lot of this in previous books.  It is difficult to dream about a future in the midst of a war, not knowing if you will survive or not.

As always, I love the meticulous research that goes into these books and I have always felt like I was right there when reading these authors' books.  They are very descriptive, but there are some things I am really, really glad they leave up to our imagination.  The description of the daughter, for example, didn't need to be graphic for you to understand she had been brutally raped by German soldiers for over a week, and she was just a young girl.  Nope, there are some things that just don't need descriptions. 

While I found the descriptions of Paris during the Peace Conference talks to be riveting, I did find the mystery to be a bit ...slow.  It wasn't that I didn't find it interesting, but there was more about Bess flitting here and there than there was about the mystery.  This has been one of my concerns in some of the previous books as well where you get huge descriptions about her travels by car or by train. Yes, they are interesting, but they do take away from the overall feel of the novel as a mystery. That being said, it was never boring. Ever. And I particularly liked the nursing aspects of the story even though I have no nursing background.

A Cruel Deception is an interesting story but I don't think it quite lived up to some of the previous entries in this series.  If you have never read a book in this series though, I don't necessarily recommend starting with this one as the authors assume that the reader is familiar with the characters and has an understanding of the past stories.  Simon is mentioned a lot in this book but he never appears and if you had never read a previous book, you would have no idea of the importance of this character to Bess.  Nevertheless, there are quite a few hints as to what may happen in future books and I can't wait to find out what is in store for Bess.  Please, please, please, let it be about Bess and Simon!! We have waited a long time for this to happen.


  1. i love when an author's research shines through the story.
    sherry @ fundinmental

    1. So do I, which is why I love these books and would read them despite a less than stellar mystery story. This series and the Rutledge ones too. I am particularly interested in Rutledge and his shell shock as I think the author deals with it so well.